REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
February 14-17, 2017
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in October.
The deadline to register for delegate subsidies and to submit resolutions for the 2017 Prairie Region Convention was December 8, 2016.
At that time, there were 294 delegates registered. Additionally, the following were registered at the time of deadline but not eligible for subsidies: 25 alternates, 21 observers, and 6 guests.
We also received 42 resolutions, including 26 from committees and area councils, 11 from locals, and 5 from PRC. All resolutions were submitted to the Executive Office for vetting by Sister Robyn Benson. Our convention resolutions committees met on January 21 and 22, 2017, following our regular PRC meeting.
The 7th Triennial Convention of the PSAC Prairie Region will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the Fairmont Winnipeg beginning Friday, April 21, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. and concluding Sunday, April 23, at 12:30 p.m.
On October 27, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada employees at the Vegreville Case Processing Centre were shocked to learn that the federal government plans to close their processing centre in Vegreville and relocate it to Edmonton by the end of 2018. Approximately 280 employees work in the centre, processing temporary and permanent residency applications, work permits and student permits. The employees represent approximately five percent of the population of Vegreville, a community approximately 100 km outside of Edmonton.
The closure of the Immigration Centre will have a devastating impact on the entire Vegreville community, and PSAC/CEIU are doing everything we can to stop it. We convened a steering committee consisting of local representatives and union leaders to help guide our planning and to ensure we are strategic and effective in our efforts. Sister Benson immediately sent a letter to Minister John McCallum urging him to put a stop to the plan to move the processing centre. We also launched an online action so PSAC members and Canadians can show their support. To find out more about the campaign and how you can support this rural Alberta town and the workers affected, visit respectvegreville.ca or “Respect Vegreville” on Facebook.
We also held a community forum on December 18. More than 400 people crowded into the Vegreville Social Centre to show their support and voice their concerns over the closure of the Vegreville Immigration Centre. Attendees asked questions, shared their concerns, and added their voice to the call for the government to Respect Vegreville and reverse their decision. Hundreds of letters were signed to be delivered to Minister McCallum and local MPs, as well as petitions from local politicians.
I’d like to thank all those that attended, as well as those that participated in the panel discussion, including: Myron Hayduk, Mayor, Vegreville; Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP, Lakeland; Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville; Michelle Henderson, Campaign Lead, CEIU; and Brother Chris Aylward.
With the recent cabinet shuffle, Ahmed Hussen has been assigned to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. We have since sent a letter to Minister Hussen’s office to welcome him to the position and brief him on our previous correspondence with Minister McCallum. We’ve also relaunched the online action, calling on the new minister to reconsider the closure of the Vegreville Immigration Centre.
SUPPORT OUR PORT
The fight to protect our port continues. On November 9, I presented to the Manitoba Federal Liberal caucus to discuss the issue of Churchill as well as other issues under federal jurisdiction such as Phoenix and the relocation of the Vegreville CPC. In December, employees of the Port of Churchill visited Parliament Hill to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to save the port by converting the Port of Churchill into a Port Authority under federal jurisdiction. The group posed for a photo that read, “No Christmas for Churchill – Save Our Port.”
I was honoured to join the workers, alongside Niki Ashton (MP, Churchill—Keewatinook Aski) and Teresa Eschuk (Regional Vice-President, UCTE Prairies/North), as we met with several MPs and staff from all parties and attended Question Period.
Immediately following our action on The Hill, we received a call from Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr to discuss the issue, hear our concerns, and provide us with updates. After repeated e-mails and phone messages went ignored, and with little-to-no action from the government, I am certain that our very public efforts forced them to finally respond. I am very proud of the workers for sharing their stories and standing up to the employer.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
The Calgary Regional Women’s Committee participated in the Sisters in Spirit Vigil on October 6, organized by the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. In addition to participating in the event, the committee made a donation to pay for more than 500 bagged lunches served to the participants of the vigil. The event included a rally, march, and ceremony with prayers and speeches. Two young girls showcased their “Footprints” exhibit with over 1,200 pairs of shoes, each representing a murdered or missing Indigenous woman and girl, arranged in a medicine wheel pattern in Olympic Plaza. Sisters from the Lethbridge RWC took part in their local Sisters in Spirit Vigil by participating on the planning committee and assisting with funds and volunteers for the October 4 event.
The Lethbridge RWC hosted an annual knitting event on December 5, where local knitters and crocheters made toques and scarves to donate to local organizations. The knitwear was donated to Lethbridge Family Services and the Alzheimer Society of Alberta & Northwest Territories. The committee also supported the October 18 Persons Day breakfast, where Lethbridge Area Council President Krysty Munns was a guest speaker. Members of the Lethbridge RWC and Area Council attended the Amnesty International Lethbridge “Write for Rights” event on December 10 and the YWCA Lethbridge Candlelight Vigil for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6.
PSAC once again supported the Canadian Labour International Film Festival. Lethbridge Area Council and RWC members hosted an event on November 14, attended by nearly 110 community members. The Calgary Area Council hosted two CLIFF film screenings to show and discuss short films from the International Film Festival. The Edmonton Area Council also held an event.
The Calgary and Lethbridge Regional Women’s Committees teamed up to take action on the issue of child care. The committees developed a regional campaign for a national child care program with the slogan, “No more fairy tales. It’s time to make universal child care a reality.” The campaign launched on December 22 with a holiday-themed online postcard and three more online postcards were developed to be released monthly. RWC members have been promoting the campaign on social media and encouraging people to take part in the online action. For more information, visit www.nomorefairytales.ca.
The Winnipeg RWC worked with the Winnipeg Area Council and the Winnipeg Human Rights Committee to create a float for the annual Santa Clause Parade. This was the first time the committees participated in the parade and it was well received by the community and the members who volunteered to do face painting and walk in the parade with the PSAC float handing out candy. Many people called out from the crowd that they were a PSAC member and showed their support for the union. Members also did face painting before the parade.
Additionally, the RWC made a donation to the MFL Labour Christmas Tree, which provides outerwear clothing to Winnipeg children in need, and purchased five tickets for committee members to attend the MFL Day of Remembrance Luncheon on December 6. The Area Council participated in the wreath laying ceremony on Remembrance Day.
In Edmonton, the RWC organized a seminar on domestic violence, which included five speakers and a raffle with proceeds going to the Ermineskin Women's Shelter. Sisters also attended a Remembrance Day event to present a wreath on behalf of the committee, as did members of the Saskatoon Area Council at their respective November 11 event. The Edmonton RWC also held a December 6 vigil to honour the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, as did the Saskatoon RWC.
On December 11, the Regina RWC hosted a women’s self-defense workshop with three self-defense instructors and dozens of participants, including myself. Members of the committee also volunteered with members of the Regina Area Council at the Unions of Regina Christmas Dinner on December 20. The event, which was hosted by the Regina & District Labour Council, fed 1,800 people and provided gifts to children in need.
The Edmonton Area Council hosted a solidarity brunch on October 1, with 35 members in attendance from 22 locals. Speakers at the event included, Gil McGowan (President, Alberta Federation of Labour President), Bruce Fafard (President, Edmonton and District Labour Council) and Oneil Carlier (Alberta NDP MLA and former PSAC Regional Representative).
The Prince Albert Area Council organized a town hall forum around bargaining and Phoenix. I attended to speak and answer questions, along with Brother Chris Aylward and Sister Brea Lewis (2nd NVP for CIU and FB bargaining team member). The event was well attended and well received by members.
For the fifth year, the Westman Area Council participated in the 21st Annual Christmas Tree Auction by decorating one of twelve Christmas trees to donate to local families. The annual event raised $38,505 for the United Way of Brandon & District.
On October 27, the Saskatchewan government introduced Bill 40 to change the definition of “privatize,” with respect to a Crown corporation. The proposed law would allow the government to sell up to 49 percent of a company without it being considered privatization. As our members at the Casino Regina are part of the Crown corporation Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, we are very concerned and have been meeting with other unions and the SFL to participate in any campaigns to oppose privatization of Saskatchewan Crowns.
On November 1, I presented to the Manitoba government's Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development to submit PSAC's position on Bill 7: The Labour Relations Amendment Act. At its core, Bill 7 is not about protecting workers’ democratic rights. Rather, it is directly aimed at expanding the ability of employers to interfere in the process. This legislation’s purpose is to make it more difficult for workers to exercise their legal right to unionize and depress the rate of unionization in Manitoba. The full submission can be found on the PSAC Prairies website.
On December 9, I attended a press conference at the Manitoba Legislature with MP Niki Ashton, MLA Rob Altemeyer and Manitoba fishers regarding the provincial government’s decision to pull out of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. PSAC/UEW represents the engineers at the FFMC processing centre in Winnipeg and there are concerns regarding the viability of the plant should Manitoba fishers no longer use the facility.
We have an agreement in principle with the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers at the Royal Canadian Mint. The Memorandum of Settlement for their first collective agreement will be completed by the end of January followed by the ratification vote.
Employees at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development are still pushing for improved vacation allocation language and wages, and continue to fight against concessions. We’re currently looking at dates for the next round.
Bargaining continues at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights with precarious work as a priority for this round of bargaining.
Bargaining is underway with the University of Winnipeg for first collective agreements for the academic workers. The bargaining team has been elected and demands are being prepared at Brandon University. Bargaining at the University of Saskatchewan is underway for a first collective agreement and we will be starting the process early this year to elect a team for the U of S Post Doc unit that was recently certified.
Several collective agreements expired on December 31, 2016, including the SRG Security Resource Group, Edmonton Airport GBU and Casino Regina. Notice to bargain has been issued and meetings with bargaining teams are underway. We expect to exchange with employers in February. Also up for bargaining in 2017 will be the Calgary Airport Authority and Deer Lodge Centre.
On December 9, the Manitoba Labour Board issued a bargaining certificate for approximately 30 members at the Winnipeg Airport in its WASCO Energy subsidiary and at a company called Bouygues Energies and Services Canada, all of which are operating as a joint venture called "ByWA" (which is not a legal entity.) This joint venture is now operating the Airport Operations Centre, the Baggage Operations Centre and the Pass Office in positions formerly held by PSAC/UCTE members. We have also asked the Board for a decision on the true employer of these members and bargaining will commence following their decision.
We lost a dear friend in November with the passing of Judy Shannon. So many of us have worked with Judy over the years. She was a passionate educator, dedicated activist and an exceptional regional education officer. Judy had been with PSAC since before I got involved as an activist and through her support, coaching and friendship I was able to grow within the union. She didn’t just educate; she built activists. And our union is better for her unwavering commitment to quality education. She will be deeply missed.
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President